Peruvian Adventure 5/18/2006-6/28/2006

Steamboat à Denver à Miami à Lima à Huaraz à Cordillera Blanca à Cordillera Huayhuash à Huaraz à Lima à Miami and home


5/21/2006 Café Andino Huaraz, Peru 1400 10,254 ft:  For the past two days Skip and Tom have been talking about this legendary guide they call “the man who made the Sherpa’s cry”.  The story is that a few years ago he was part of an expedition on K2.  He was ascending the mountain and came across two Sherpas who were hauling this load with a heavy stove and food up to the base camp.  The Sherpas would walk 50 ft, rest for a few minutes and then move forward for another 50ft with the load.  Jorje, the man who made the Sherpas cry, picked up the load by himself, threw it on his back and with out stopping made it to base camp.  He has also climbed almost every peak in the Cordillera Blanca and always carries the heaviest load.

As Skip was reciting one of these legendary tales, Jorje and his son Walter walk in to the court yard below and call up to Skip.  They had come down from their village above Huaraz for the day, and had heard that their old amigo Skip was back in town.  After they had visited for a while I mentioned that I had heard that there was some local bouldering and Walter volunteered to take me up the next morning for a little rock work. 

Walter had just completed his elite guide training through the Case de Guias and was looking forward to the upcoming climbing season.  Besides intense training in all aspects of climbing and mountaineering, the Casa de Guias requires all guides to learn at least one non-regional language.  Fortunately for me he had chosen English. 

The next morning we caught the collectivo from Huaraz and were dropped off in a green pasture near the small village of Huanchac.  The pasture was the home of numerous clean boulders up to 15’ in height with a variety of challenging problems. There were several young Peruvians, all buddies of Walter’s, working on various problems.  They were all dressed in tee-shirts, long pants and outdated worn out climbing shoes.  Not surprisingly they were all strong, determined and fearless.  After a couple of hours I was exhausted and we said good by to our climbing friends and headed out.  Rather than catching a ride back to Huaraz Walter suggested a walk through the hills to visit his home village and then back to Huaraz.  I could never retrace our steps, but it was a wonderful tour along streams and paths, past hamlets and homes and through small villages.  For Walter it was his daily journey through his local Quechua community, for me it was a unique opportunity to not be a tourist.










Walter on our walk from Huanchac to Huaraz















After returning from a great day of bouldering and touring I had dinner with Skip, Becky (Skip’s wife) and Tommy at the French Bistro.  This was another benefit of hanging out with Skip.  The restaurant was owned and run by a French chef and former climber who had come to Huaraz to climb, met a Peruvian lady named Lola, got married, and now they run two successful restaurants in town.  The company and food were first class.



5/23/2006: Huaraz: Just a relaxing day.  Walked around town, visited the market, and got provisions for my morning trip in to the Ishinca Valley.  It is amazing that after only a few days in a remote town thousands of miles from my home, and light years away from my culture, I feel comfortable, as though I have been here a long time.

Typical Huaraz market street scene


Since it is still early season there are few other touristy looking people.  Mostly locals, but frequently I encounter a person or small group of gringos with back packs wandering the street like I am.  Generally when you encounter someone “like you” in a strange place, you are drawn together.  This is not the case here.  People seem to be on their own adventure and I think would rather imagine themselves sole travelers in a foreign land than one of thousands who will visit this area during this season.


5/24/06: Ishinca Base Camp 4,460 ft, elevation gain today 3,066 ft, total for Ishinca Valley trip (IVT) 3,066 ft: Left Huaraz around 8:30 AM after a breakfast burrito and a cup of good coffee at the Café Andino.  After about an hour taxi ride over some exciting roads and up a few thousand feet in to the Andes, we arrived at the town of Pashpa.  Pashpa is literally the end of the road.  The winding dirt road from the valley below ends in the town square, which is a 200 ft by 300 ft patch of grass surrounded by small shops and a few tiny houses. 

Fidel and family packing up my stuff in the square in Pashpa for the trek in to Ishinca Base Camp


There was no activity in the shops and the only sign of life was a man, a woman and two kids.  The man’s name was Fidel, one of a few arrieros who worked out of the village.  The woman and children were his family and working partners in his business. 

My stuff was dumped in the square and after a brief introduction, me llomo Daniel and me llamo Fidel, Fidel and the family packed up my gear on two burros and with in 30 minutes we were hiking up in to the Ishinca Valley of the Peruvian Andes.

On the trail to Ishinca with Fidel and the burros in the lead


It was a fairly gently four hour climb from the open fields ad lupines around Pashpa, through tropical looking Quenual trees up to almost 14,000 ft and finally in to the rock strewn sub-glacial alluvial fan of the Ishinca Valley with Nevado Tocllaraju dominating the sky line. 

Passing through the Quenual forest on the way to the Ishinca Valley


On the way ran in to two Canadian woman who were just hiking out.  They had less than a successful trip with both of them getting tourista and spending about four days in their tent unable to move except for emergency bathroom trips.  They also reported that no one had yet summated Tocllaraju this year.  There had been a couple of Russians who got turned around due to route problems and illness, there are been a couple of Spaniards that had turned around at high camp.  There were currently a couple of Canadian guys who were heading to high camp and would be attempting to summit in the next couple of days.

As I got closer to camp the clouds moved in. 

Fidel unpacked my gear, neatly piled it on the ground, secured his strapping ropes and blankets and got ready to head four hours back to Pashpa.  The one item we needed to be certain on was the date and time that he would return.  Given my limited Spanish and his no English this was a bit challenging, but in the end he seemed to firmly understand that he would return around 10 AM on May 30th.  His fee for the day was 35 soles ($10) and another 17.5 s ($5) per burro, for a grand total of  $20 for nine hours of work and two animals.

I set up my tent in the meadow.  Looking southeast toward Tocllaraju I had Ures Estes on my left with its peak shrouded by clouds and an impending snow storm, and Ishinca on my right with Ranrapalca sitting on Ishinca’s right shoulder.


Camp in the Ishinca Valley with the western edge of Tocllaraju in the back ground


By the time I got my tent set up it was starting to snow lightly.  I boiled up some water for dinner and then wandered around camp to meet some of the other residents.  During mid-season there can be 100 or more tents in this meadow, but right now in late may there were only 8 tents set up by hopeful climbers.

I met two Canadian women who were on their way out and had failed their summit attempt on Tocllaraju, not due to lack of stamina or skill, but due to E. coli.  There were two fellas from Barcelona Spain who had gone to high camp, but couldn’t work their way higher on the maintain.  Two Israelis and four Italians had just arrived and were preparing to climb Tocllaraju.  There was an empty camp belonging to two Canadians who were at high camp on Tocllaraju and preparing for the summit in the morning.

I had hoped to check out my approach on Urus for the morning, but snow and low clouds left me with no more than a good guess when I leave for the Urus summit 3-4 AM tomorrow morning.

It is around 8 PM and one hour after sunset.  At 9 degrees south of the equator, one thing you can count on never changing is 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark.  With 3 AM approaching fast I think I’ll get my beauty rest.


5/24/2006: 11:20 AM Ishinca Base Camp. Elevation gain today 3,240, total for IVT 6,306 ft.

Woke around 3 AM today to prepare for Ures Este climb.  The tent was coated in frost and the ground had a very light layer of new snow, but looking outside the stars were so thick in the sky that they looked like high cirrus clouds.  There was no moon, no hint of a sun rise, and with the only large population center being hundreds of miles and a mountain range away over the Andes, there was only milky darkness and my headlamp to guide me.

Hitting the trail to Urus at 3 AM


Having not been able to fully get my bearing due to the snow storm yesterday afternoon, I just set my bearing in the direction I know I needed to go and headed up.  I did have some company.  While we had no contact, the Italian group was up around the same time and heading up Urus.  I could see their headlamps bobbing along the hillside and I assumed we would meet up at some point.  Just having company on the mountain was comforting.

After about thirty minutes I lost all sight of the Italian’s headlight and I just headed through the moving five foot diameter world created by my headlamp that passed in front of me.  After about 1,000 ft of climbing I found a well worn trail and along with it a good deal of needed reassurance.  The trail continued upward for another 1,000 ft until I came to a boulder strewn area and the beginning of the glacier and snow. 

While I stopped to refuel and put on my crampons, I noticed two symmetrical illuminations across the valley to the southeast.  There were two bright lights like horns on a bull with a dark area between the two objects.  My only guess was that it was the tent of the Canadian’s at the high camp on Tocllaraju.  Seconds later the mystery was solved as a horizontal crescent moon rose directly behind the summit cone of Tocllaraju.  The summit had split the reclining crescent in half creating the two horns of light.

A half hour later the sun began to rise and the sky illuminated.  Just as the sun came in to full view, in clear and crisp conditions, I scrambled up the final rock slabs and ice to the 17,300 ft summit of Urus Estes.

On the descent I ran in to the group of four Italians at the snow line.  We had a friendly exchange, took some pictures and headed on our respective ways. 

Met the Italians on  the way down.  The summit of Urus Estes is in the background


I was back by 9 AM and had tea with the guys from Barcelona and the Canadians cook, Zack, who was waiting for their return from Tocllaraju.  The Spaniards were skeptical of my five hour round trip time since it had taken them nine hours to climb it the day before.  I fortunately had taken some summit shots for proof.  The upshot of all this is that they took it upon themselves to let everyone in the camp know that I was a hardman who ran up and down the mountains.  I tried to explain to them that I had an advantage living in the mountains of Colorado while they had come directly from sea level.


Peru Adventure Part IV

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